A MOVEMENT FOR CHRISTIAN RENEWAL
What is a Cursillo?
To explain Cursillo to someone who has never experienced
Cursillo is at best, difficult. Often, for those who have
experienced Cursillo it is still somewhat mystifying. This
is not because the Cursillo Movement is a "secret"
organization. The reason behind the mystery is God. No one
can fully explain how God touches each person in His special
/ unique way throughout the various elements of the Cursillo
Cursillo (pronounced kur-see-yo) is a Spanish word
meaning a short course. It is an abbreviated form of Cursillo
de Cristiandad (short course to prepare Christians). It
is not a theoretical course, nor is it a retreat. It is
first and foremost an experience. It must be lived. It is
a life-changing experience, which brings with it the discovery
of the basis of Christianity and its fundamental significance
to our lives.
The first stirrings of what later was to become the Cursillo
Movement began on the Island of Majorca during World War
II. The Spanish Civil War had ended in 1939, and the years
after the Civil War were a time of ferment in the Spanish
Church. Before the war, a pilgrimage to the shrine of St.
James at Compostela had been planned. After being postponed
several times by the disruption of war, it was finally rescheduled
At first, the Cursillo's were just "little courses"
(little course is the literal meaning of the Spanish word
- Cursillo) which were given by the diocesan council of
the young men's branch of Catholic Action. They were given
to members of Catholic Action groups as a way of forming
them so they could become effective apostles.
In 1959, the Cursillo spread throughout Texas and to Phoenix,
Arizona. In August of that year the first national convention
of spiritual directors was held, and Ultreya magazine began
publication. In 1960, the growth of the Cursillo quickened
in the Southwest, and weekends were held for the first time
in the East in New York City and Lorain, Ohio.
Until 1961, all weekends were held in Spanish. That year
the first English-speaking weekend was held in San Angelo,
Texas. Also in 1961, first weekends were held in San Francisco,
California; Gary, Indiana; Lansing, Michigan; and Gallup,
New Mexico. By 1962, twenty-five more English-speaking weekends
had been held. Today, it is a worldwide movement with centres
in nearly all South and Central American countries, the
United States, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Great
Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia,
Australia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka
and in several African countries.
The Cursillo experience begins with a weekend course in
basic Christianity. The three-day course gives the
participant practical insights into the everyday life of
faith and service. The weekend is a back-to-basics
experience which often deepens and rounds out what one has
learned about Christ earlier in life. The program
begins on Thursday evening and concludes on Sunday evening.
The weekend is led by a team of lay volunteers and clergy.
They prepare extensively for this three-day course in basic
Christianity. As one might expect, there are talks
on various religious topics, and each talk is followed by
a discussion. Mass is celebrated each day, and there
is an opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation.
Morning and evening prayer, as well as a few devotions,
are part of the schedule. Meals are hearty, and there
are regular breaks in the schedule.
Hundreds of thousands of American Catholics have lived
Cursillo, so that a deep pool of people is available to
support one another.
After the Weekend
Follow-through is essential to living the Cursillo experience
successfully. After the weekend, there will be opportunities
to meet and pray with others, in order to consolidate what
was developed during the three days at the retreat house.
The follow-up program is explained in detail during the
weekend. The retreat house staff and the Cursillo
team, along with the sponsors, aid the candidates in connecting
with other Cursillistas (those who have lived the
The candidate should be at least 25 years of age.
While there is no upper age limit, keep in mind the schedule is
physically challenging and the candidate must be able to participate in
the entire weekend. The Cursillo aims at a mature living of the
The schedule is a full and demanding one which
health and stamina. There are separate
men and women. Non-Catholics are also
Protestant versions of the Cursillo are available in
The Cursillo weekend is a learning experience more
retreat. It is a busy and active time. It is not
geared for serious counseling or for therapy.
As a result,
we discourage people who are heavily burdened by
and emotional problems from attending. Other
exist to meet such needs. In addition, those
from substance abuse should be pursuing the
forms the basis of the twelve-step program. The candidate must be available for the entire
Cursillo experience and cannot be excused to attend outside
events, i.e., family functions, business meetings, etc.
A person applies for a Cursillo by way of a sponsor -- a friend
or acquaintance who has lived the Cursillo and continues to
be active in the Movement. Many parishes and recovery
communities have Cursillo contact people. If you need
assistance with a sponsor, contact
the retreat house. There are forms for the candidate and
the sponsor. Space is limited at the retreat house, so
only a certain number of applicants can be accepted. Well
before the weekend, applications are confirmed by mail.
The cost of the weekend (including
three nights and nine meals) is very reasonable. $150